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3 November 2005

NHS - fighting cuts and sell-offs

Charing Cross hospital

PRESS REPORTS this summer said that services at Charing Cross hospital were being sold off to private health care provider BUPA. The hospital Trust kept denying there would be cuts and privatisation, whilst hospital workers heard rumours of plans to transfer services to Hammersmith Hospital, several miles away.

Elizabeth O'Hara, Socialist Party, London West Central

Our Socialist Party branch wrote to the trust's Chief Executive, Derek Smith, asking about these plans. In his reply, he claimed the Trust had no plans of this sort. Yet, in mid-September, the Trust told the Patients' Forum they were actively weighing up options of providing services at either Hammersmith or Charing Cross sites, not both.

At the hospital Trust's AGM in September, the Socialist Party presented a petition signed by 750 local people and hospital workers, saying no to cuts and privatisation.

In answer to our questions, Derek Smith told us that, in his opinion, there are too many hospitals in West London! On his 210,000+ a year salary, he can afford to buy luxury health care, whilst cutting the very services the rest of us rely on.

Then news broke of New Labour's plans to sell off hospital sites and to increase the amount of operations carried out by private health care firms.

We keep being told that cuts are the only option. Yet, money is thrown at consultants and senior managers whilst boosting the profits of private health care companies. The North West London Strategic Health Authority (responsible for Hammersmith Hospital Trust) is planning to cut the number of outpatient appointments, cut the length of hospital admissions and reduce specialist NHS services. Laughably, they call this plan 'Our Healthy Future'.

Meanwhile, they plan to hand over Ravenscourt Park hospital to the private sector. The hospital Trust and the Strategic Health Authority say they will formally consult local people on the detail of the plans. But not until after next spring's local elections.

In 1991 the Tory government tried to close Charing Cross' accident and emergency department. A concerted campaign of hospital workers and local people (including many Militant supporters, the forerunner of the Socialist Party) organised demonstrations and lobbies against the closure and helped make the government retreat.

We're now calling for a similar broad-based campaign to counter the current closure and privatisation plans and force ministers and senior managers to keep our NHS public.

St George's, Tooting

"THEY CAN'T do that". This was the typical response to our Socialist Party stall in Tooting highlighting job cuts and bed closures at St George's Hospital. However, this is exactly what New Labour intends to do as 300 jobs are to be axed and 33 beds closed on top of 60 beds already cut.

Neil Cafferty

This belt-tightening for Wands-worth people aims to plug the 27 million deficit facing St. George's Health Care Trust (HCT). Chief Executive, Peter Homa said: "If we put off the tough decisions like this even tougher decisions will need to be taken in future."

Is this really a brave decision? Or is it avoiding the really tough decisions needed for decent health care for the working people of Wandsworth? Battersea & Wands-worth TUC recently found that more than 300 extra beds were needed to meet local pressures over the next three years, but current plans fall 200 beds short of this.

Worse, Wandsworth is facing a 5 million shortfall over the next three years due to changes in funding guidelines. Although the HCT tries to assure the public that most of the job losses will be in non-clinical staff, this will still disrupt services.

Bernell Busse of the Royal College of Nurses expressed staff fears, saying; "Redundancies, non-clinical or not, will have a massive impact on patient care and the workload of remaining staff."

Much of the deficit can be blamed on New Labour's mania for using private contactors to reward their big business friends and attack working conditions. The HCT has been using more expensive but non-unionised agency staff in order to weaken the unions in the hospital.

The Socialist Party campaigns against health cuts and demands:

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